VCU researcher awarded $1.7M to study interactions between doctors, black patients with diabetes

VCU psychology professor has been awarded a four-year, $1.7 million grant to study the association between physicians’ communication behaviors and the outcomes of black patients with Type 2 diabetes, such as satisfaction with care, trust in physicians, medication adherence and diabetes management.

vcuThe grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease in the National Institutes of Health also will seek to identify the physician factors — such as demographic characteristics, professional backgrounds, experiences, social bias and personality — that meaningfully predict physician communication behaviors.

“Poor medication adherence in black patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus is particularly prevalent,” said Nao Hagiwara, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “One important factor contributing to patients’ medication adherence is patient reports of patient-physician communication quality. However, we know little about which specific physician communication behaviors during clinical encounters are perceived positively or negatively by black patients.”

The study is being supported by the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health in the VCU School of Medicine. Research will involve collecting data from both physicians and patients at Richmond-area primary care clinics.

As the project will involve a mixed-methods research design, researchers with an array of skills will be joining Hagiwara, including Scott Vrana, Ph.D., a VCU professor of clinical psychology; Jennifer Elston Lafata, Ph.D., professor and vice chair in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Michael Fetters, M.D., a professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan; and Briana Mezuk, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

Also working on the project will be three VCU graduate students, as well as several undergraduate research assistants.

Hagiwara said the study is part of her overarching research objective to develop theory-driven interventions that are designed to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities and promote social equity.

“Findings from this project will inform the development of personally tailored, targeted communication skills training to overcome racial disparities in diabetes medication adherence and outcomes,” she said.


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